Tag Archives: cancer

#CancerConversations & becoming a Big C Ambassador

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Today I’m really excited to announce that I’ve just taken on the role of Social Media Ambassador this summer for a local cancer charity, The Big C. I’ve written about the charity countless times before in my role as a journalist in Norfolk, but now I’m going to be even more involved in their summer campaign #CancerConversations by blogging for charity and I’m so excited to be involved with such a great local cause.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to talk. I’ve lost count of how many people have told me I have the gift of the gab, that I’m the kind of gal who could start up a conversation with anyone. Even more so, I love to listen – I love to hear people’s stories, to know where they’ve come from and where they’re going. Two traits that are incredible important, both as a traveler, and in life – these have taken me through a career as a journalist, into travel blogging and has helped me no end in my world travels. Communication is what we humans live for, and yet sometimes it can be so hard to talk about the things that it is most important to discuss, whether relating to our feelings, or even more importantly, our health. For someone who is so vocal about everything else, I sometimes really struggle to talk about very personal things – so often I am listening to the problems of others and find it tricky to slip in what I’m going through. Travelling has changed that, I’m more open than ever before about what is going on in my life and try my best not to bottle things up anymore.

Keeping with the theme of conversations, I’ll always remember a string of interviews I had a few years ago while working as a journalist in Norfolk. It started with a former teacher of mine who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, then there was the chap who came in with his wife and their baby daughter who had just been given months to live after doctors found a brain tumour. All of these brave individuals were doing their bit to raise money and awareness of the disease whether they were going to survive or not – they were inspiring and fought the illness every step of the way. But then there were the tributes – talking to the families and friends who were left behind after several startlingly young people died of the disease very suddenly. Hearing them describe their mothers, brothers, daughters and uncles as these vibrant individuals was hard, very hard. It was heartbreaking and brought a tear to my eye more times than I can count and really made me realise how short and unexpected life can be. Even now, after years of journalism, these are the interviews that stick out the most in my mind, and in life, these conversations will stay with me for the rest of my days. Teaching me the value of every second we have on this Earth and making the absolute most of it, now that’s all I dedicate my life to after giving up life as I knew it to travel the world.imageWhen it comes to health, I’ve always been lucky and had a huge support network of friends and family I could go to about anything. This makes such a huge difference when you actually have a health scare, just knowing you have people to talk to about it, just knowing you’re not alone and being able to seek help can change your whole experience. It’s sad to think there are people out there who feel they have no-one to turn to in these situations, or who wouldn’t feel comfortable seeking the help they are entitled to, but there are so many like this. Just recently, I’ve had two uncles hospitalised in a serious condition, one of which was put on life support, and saw how our entire family came together despite being spread across three continents. The beauty of phones, email, Skype and even Whatsapp made it possible for us all to keep in touch across five different time zones and brought us closer together. But if you have no-one you feel you can turn to, it could be such a lonely and terrifying time to go through something like that. I think guys find it harder to open up about health issues so it’s essential for campaigns to help them discover the support that’s available to them.

This is why The Big C have launched their summer campaign, #CancerConversations which is aimed at those across Norfolk and Waveney who are not taking advantage of the free cancer support available to them, men in particular. The team behind The Big C said: “Chaps – don’t bottle up your cancer health issues. We can help support you through your treatment! We have a range of free services we can offer including: financial support and welfare advice, counselling services, pharmacy support and complementary therapies.”  It’s so important to get the support you need while going through something like this, I know so many people who couldn’t have coped with going through cancer alone. A lot of these services were not available when my grandmother died of oesophageal cancer around a decade ago, but even then we were grateful for any help to deal with the condition. Now anyone going through the heartache and suffering of coping with this disease, or supporting someone through it, has a wealth of free services at their fingertips! If you’re a woman reading this, why not take the time to make the men in your life aware.1563

Where can you get help?

With free support centres in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and my home of King’s Lynn, there are plenty of places to start if you’re seeking help. Join one of the cancer support groups to share experiences at the Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn Centres for men who are living with and beyond cancer. These provide an informal, non-judgmental, open environment where men can support each other.

A range of free welfare advice is available with a specialist adviser, helping you sort the practicalities so you can concentrate on getting better. Information on benefits, loans, housing, employment issues, travel expenses, childcare, blue badge applications, help with form filling and much more is available.

The Big C also provide a range of complementary therapies in the Big C Centres. If you are a cancer patient, you and one carer can have up to six sessions each of reflexology, massage or reiki. There are also relaxation classes and nutritional workshops available, contact your nearest Big C centre to book.

Available for both you and your family, free counselling is a more structured form of support which may be appropriate when things seem so overwhelming that your usual ways of coping don’t appear to help. Up to six sessions can be arranged for each patient and carer.

For more information about these services, contact one of the following centres:

Norwich – 01603 286112 or cancer.information@nnuh.nhs.uk
Great Yarmouth – 01493 855297 or yarmouthcentre@big-c.co.uk
King’s Lynn – 01553 818737 or kingslynncentre@big-c.co.uk
The Louise Hamilton Centre, Gorleston – 01493 453100

Click here to go to the website – and here to find out more about the #CancerConversations summer campaign

Have you used any of these services – how have they helped you? Tell me about the strangest or funniest conversation you’ve ever had.

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Pap smears – what’s all the fuss about?

IMG_7193Let me paint a little picture for you. The letterbox swings and something drops in the hall, it’s a letter for you with IMPORTANT HEALTHCARE INFORMATION emblazoned on the front. Could it be? The letter you’ve been half expecting and half dreading? You’re in one of two groups of people at this point – you either know nothing much at all about cervical screening and weren’t even really expecting the letter, or you’ve heard horror stories from friends and are terrified of this painful and frankly humiliating procedure. After imagining all the horrible things that are going to happen to you when you’re there on the table with your legs akimbo and your beaver flapping all up in the nurse’s face – you finally remember Jade Goody and think, oh well I better book in. So you do, and you have to wait six weeks or something for the big day, then it finally drags around and before you know it, you’re being called in. The nurse has a kindly face and a no-nonsense approach so you do as your told as she explains what’s going to happen. Trousers and pants in a heap on the floor and out it comes… your muff, snatch, camel toe, lady garden, fanny, frou frou, minnie, grassy knoll, front bum, poonanie, tunnel of love, snatch, cock sock, cupid’s cupboard. Need I go on? I’ve got a few more… but you get the idea.

Lie back and think of England

That’s the phrase that comes to mind over the whole thing. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not the most fun you’ll ever have in your life – it certainly doesn’t compare to drinking sangria on the beach in Ibiza with your mates – but it could save your life. And quite frankly – I really don’t see what the fuss is all about after having mine yesterday. So I figured it was important to share my experience with you all to stop any worries you might have if you have yours coming up – or if for any reason you have put off having yours. I was pretty lucky actually, I got my letter yesterday afternoon and already had my last jabs appointment booked in for the same day, so I took along the letter with me, hoping to book an appointment for before I went away travelling in January. I hadn’t actually expected to get my letter so soon, but had already been told when I asked that I couldn’t book until I’d been called up. Luckily, mentioning it to my nurse as I had my jabs, she  said she had five minutes spare to do the examination on the spot to make sure I had it before I went. Okay – I totally understand I was a bit lucky here as I had no time to dread it or worry, but I can seriously assure you all that there is no point in building it up in your mind.

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So what happens?

A curtain is drawn, the door is locked and you have to whip off your trousers and knickers before laying down on the bed with a bit of tissue over your bits. Had an STD test before? Then this will all be familiar ground. The nurse will bring over a funny looking piece of equipment called a speculum and a little brush with a long handle, plus a good squirt of KY jelly – she inserts the speculum into your vagina and it is used to spread it slightly so she can access your cervix. For some, this might mean putting your fists under your bum if the angle is slightly different, but I didn’t have to. Within less than a minute, she has popped the tiny brush up there, swiped it around a bit and gathered a load of cells for testing. Now this part feels a bit odd – some say uncomfortable – but to be honest, I consider an aching bum from sitting on a plane for six hours uncomfortable and this was nothing compared to that. It was a weird feeling, but certainly not painful in any way and it is literally over in minutes. The brushing motion feels weird because the nurses are thorough and try to ensure they get a useful sample first time so you don’t have to go through it all again. After that, you whip your clothes back on and wait two weeks for your results.

Cringeworthy?

Getting your minge out in front of another woman who spends much of her days looking at any number of them? Where is the embarrassment there? The whole thing is a bit cringe, but who honestly cares if this woman likes the look of your labias or not? You’re finding out that you are cancer free and unlikely to develop the disease – does embarrassment really need to come into it? I really think that if embarrassment about another woman (WHO ALSO HAS A VAGINA) seeing your bits is preventing you from getting this important health check, then you really need to reassess your life. We are really lucky to have this service available to us for free in this country – it is a shame it is not offered to women from a younger age, but we should be grabbing the opportunity with both hands! I’m sure if Jade Goody could go back and do it all again, she would beg for a test if it gave her one more day with her sons. Two awkward moments for a few years of reassurance – you can’t really compare or measure that for me. Especially if it gives me a good laugh with my girls over a glass of wine in the pub next week.

This photo by The Telegraph will always stay with me

This photo of Jade Goody by The Telegraph will always stay with me

Afterwards?

In the few hours that followed my smear (that word is so gross isn’t it?) I did notice a tiny bit of spotting, but it was barely anything at all. The nurse explained it was just caused by the swiping motion of the brush and was nothing to worry about. And my lower tummy did feel slightly odd – I couldn’t even describe it as an ache because it didn’t hurt – it just felt like someone had been poking around in there, but by the time you read this post, everything is back to normal and it is like nothing ever happened. I now have two weeks of waiting for my results – hopefully all clear – and then I have peace of mind and nothing to worry about until I am 28 and it all has to be done again. Three glorious years of knowing my cervix is a-okay and that I am not going to be struck down in my prime like some of the devastating stories here or here, or here, and how about here? All four of these stories are just devastating, and I barely had to search to find them. They are becoming more and more high profile as further cases emerge – many of these girls were not yet allowed the smear because they were considered too young. So tell me how you can possibly justify not going along and getting yours when it is being offered to you on a plate?

If you get your letter through, or if you’ve already had it, please don’t let fear or embarrassment put you off booking an appointment any longer. It really isn’t anything worth worrying about and for something that is over in two minutes, it really could change and save your life. I never thought I would say this after seeing her in Big Brother – but this really is one of those times we should ask ourselves –

What Would Jade Goody Do?

Tell me – what was your cervical smear like? Why is it so important to take up this free health check while we have the opportunity?

Ab Lucy sign off

It’s On The Ball – Have You Checked Yours?

IMG_6818With amazing timing, I was invited to the second annual Tobi’s Ball on Saturday night – a black-tie fundraiser for Norwich-based charity, It’s On The Ball, which works to raise money and awareness of testicular cancer. It took place just days after I suddenly spotted a load of publicity for a special Channel 4 programme fundraising for cancer research and celebrating reaching the point where as many people survive cancer as succumb to it. A huge landmark in cancer research and the development of treatment, and how better to acknowledge this amazing change than by helping to raise awareness of a lesser publicised form of the disease and raising money for such a good cause? Anyone who has lost anyone to cancer, or who has suffered themselves, will know how hard it is to watch someone you love go through that. The fact that this charity in particular was set up by a group of men who had all suffered and survived the disease makes it all the more important to me, because the chairman of the charity is in fact my boyfriend’s dad. Vince was diagnosed with cancer twice – yes lightning does strike twice – but bravely fought it and won the battle both times, long before I knew him. Knowing how much my own father means to me, and to my family, I know that we are all very grateful he had the expert medical care he did and that it was spotted early enough so that he could be here today for his son and his own family.

The ball was hosted by Sprowston Manor, in Norwich, and the entertainment could be found in the ballroom marquee, which was draped with icicle fairy lights with blue lighting and was decked out with fantastic decorations – my favourite were the choice of vases filled with mini chocolate footballs, as the charity is particularly targeting footballers. The whole evening was organised with a certain level of cheekiness which really added to the atmosphere, and it was amazing to think this was only the second time it had run – it was so polished and well-organised. We luckily arrived just a minute or two before the apocalyptic thunderstorm hit, and thank goodness we did as the people coming in after us were drenched! Dressed in our finest, we were looking forward to an evening spent doing something a little bit different – the ball promised drinks, a three-course meal, a raffle, live entertainment including musicians, a singer and disco, an auction and some great speeches – not bad for £40 a ticket, especially when you know that money is all going to such an amazing cause.IMG_6804The entertainment kicked off with welcome drinks and some live music by two very talented musicians on the saxophone, clarinet and various other instruments, before wedding singer Tommy Winn, who has now proved a huge hit two years in a row, took to the stage. Kicking off the ceremony was professional footballer Paul McVeigh who compèred for the evening and talked us through everything from the menu to some great games that livened up the crowd and later, the auction. He was very popular and had a great way with the crowd, who he had in stitches for much of the night. There were lots of great ideas for fundraising games which had us competing to win prizes from bottles of wine to cash prizes, and I loved the way the donations were in built into the evening – it was really nice to donate money while having a bit of fun. After three-course dinner – which also made me chuckle because the starter and dessert were both ball-shaped – of stuffed balls, chicken and passionfruit tart with sorbet, we were all pretty stuffed, but were treated to coffees and homemade shortbread – a lovely touch!

The meal was followed by the auction, which sported prizes including a signed Barcelona football pennant, a spa package, some signed football shirts and Formula One goodies. A pretty amazing spread and really good fun to watch the auction unfold and people got more competitive and even started bidding wars on their own tables! It was really fun and probably one of the highlights of the night, particularly as they managed to raise over £3,000 from the auction alone thanks to some very generous bids. It’s times like that when, as Mark and I said to each other, it makes you wish you were rich enough to be able to slap down a grand on the table and give it all to charity – what a great feeling, to know you made such a difference to the total at an event like this! But we know we all made a difference that night, whether it was paying for the ticket, buying raffle tickers, playing the games or even having professional photos taken in exchange for a donation to the charity. We made sure we did everything and it was money well spent, plus we all had an amazing time!IMG_6813After the dinner and auction, there were the speeches, led by Vince as chairman. His speech was perfect – short, simple, but really hit you hard and I found myself welling up as he spoke of a young lad, Alfie, who I had met only a few weeks previously. Alfie lost his dad to testicular cancer, and his mum has been left a very young widow thanks to the disease. The pair both hugely support the charity, but couldn’t be there on Saturday because they were walking the streets of Norwich, raising awareness by taking part in the Stand Up To Cancer walk. Truly inspiring and, as I’m sure you agree, the perfect example of why this charity’s work is so important – with more research and awareness, the lives of countless fathers could be saved so that they can be there to watch their sons, and daughters, grow up. Throughout the evening, the organisers had also created a slideshow of photos from various other fundraisers held throughout the year which was displayed on the back wall. The night continued with a lot of dancing, chatting and great music – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a packed dance floor for the entire evening before!

I’ll finish with a bit more information about It’s On The Ball – the charity aims to support patients and their families by providing support packs and a buddy-system to the newly diagnosed, plus there is financial assistance available to help with travel and accommodation costs for those required to travel to London for specialist treatment. They also hold several events throughout the year to help raise awareness at locations including The Forum and University of East Anglia in Norwich. While other fundraisers are held throughout the year, Tobi’s Ball contributes a huge part of the money needed by the charity – with over £7,000 raised at last year’s event and expectation that this year’s will beat that total. This year, the charity was named Charity of the Year by the Norfolk Football Association which has hugely helped to raise awareness and funds for It’s On The Ball. Word is spreading thanks to the hard work of the trustees and volunteers, but more still needs to be done. So why not get involved somehow? Help raise awareness like I am now and make a difference. Even the tiniest donation will make a difference to the work of It’s On The Ball, but there are other ways of getting involved – why not just take their pledge to check yourself, or your boyfriend, every month? Just running through their check-list for a few minutes every month could help you notice instantly if anything changes and the earlier the diagnosis, the greater chance of survival.

Vince, Anne, myself and Mark

Vince, Anne, myself and Mark

Do you know someone who has been affected by testicular cancer? Have you been to a charity ball – what was your favourite part?

Ab Lucy sign off

 

What a difference a dye makes and holding on to your hair

imageAnyone who has been reading this summer will understand how busy I’ve been, and so many things have slipped for me including the state of my hair and any kind of beauty/pamper routine. That’s why this weekend has been so lovely, because I haven’t over-planned and had left myself time to really treat myself. I took the time to host a Pamper Party for my girls, treated myself to a face mask and body scrub, and even dyed my hair! Finally! The last time I dyed my hair, a few months ago, I went all out and not only gave it a base colour of Black Cherry – to give it a really nice red colouring in the sunshine, and then added in my own bright red streaks underneath. (I used the Loreal Casting Creme Gloss with the Smart Beauty Highlights kit.) It doesn’t sound like something you should do at home, nor does it sound like it would look that great, but I felt a bit adventurous and actually just did the streaks myself one night. You can’t really see the base colour in the picture below because my room was dark, but you can see the streaks effect and I think they looked rather good for a first time effort on my own hair! I hadn’t really thought they would actually take to my dark hair so well, but was so pleased they did.

photo (10)Unfortunately, after I dyed it at the beginning of June, I then became super busy and had no time to give it  the touch up it needed. It still looked good and still held the colour well, but had obviously faded and although I still had plenty of good hair days where I loved my barnet, I had a fair few days where I wanted to tear it out because I felt it looked scraggy and messy. It’s amazing how much our hair affects us, our confidence and the effort we put into the rest of our appearance. Although my hair never actually made me feel down, it certainly affected how I felt about the way I looked in that time, but I never realised until I actually dyed it again this weekend. I went for my favourite all-over colour Black Cherry again, which  looked great in the sunshine yesterday. And although I also bought some Claret Red dip dye to try on the ends, I think I’m actually going to hold off on that and enjoy the all-over colour for a little while first. It has really made me appreciate my hair and particularly now that this dye seems to have made it look a lot healthier and fuller – it even seems to have hidden how much I really need a trim to tidy it up – so I’m happy!

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My hair has been through a lot of changes in the past few years – I’d always had shoulder-length to longer dark hair throughout school. Then suddenly, right before university, I decided to chop it all off and have a bob, which I loved and really enjoyed. But I soon realised how much effort short hair was after being forced to always do something with it and started to lust after longer hair again. You can see in my photos how my hair grew over the next few years and now I would say it is nearly the longest it has ever been. I loved having short hair, it really gave me a confidence boost and made all my clothes look totally different. I would definitely have short hair again, but not any time soon. In the between stages, I had lots of variations on fringes and long bobs, layered cuts and all the rest. In the end I decided to grow my hair out, mainly for my best friend’s wedding at which I was bridesmaid last summer. Ever since, I have continued to grow it and strangely it hasn’t annoyed me ye! I thought longer hair would get on my nerves but I love having it – particularly because it means washing it a hell of a lot less and that I have given up on brushing it. I also love that my hair has kept it’s natural curl instead of losing it with the extra weight.

Just going back to my comment about how hair affects your confidence, I wrote a feature the other day on a charity called Look Good Feel Better, for which a group of volunteers who give cancer patients makeovers to help them rebuild their confidence by showing them how to use make-up to redefine their faces after losing all of their hair through cancer treatments. It may sound trivial to some, like these people have a lot more to be worrying about, but actually, when you think about it.. so many women and girls are diagnosed with cancer and all of our society are so obsessed with appearance that the loss of your hair, eyelashes and eyebrows is a big thing. It is something that makes us feel vulnerable at a time when we are physically at our weakest, a time when what we really need to feel is strong enough to beat this thing. It is a charity that takes a woman, and helps her make friends who understand what she is going through, a charity that puts a smile on the face of a woman who has terminal cancer. It make others feel confident to stand in front of their families without a wig on for the first time, and makes others fee brave enough to tackle everyday life. Make-up and hair is more than just stuff, it is a shield against the world and when life takes that away from you, you have a right to demand it back. (Read here)

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How attached to your hair are you? How do you think you would feel if suddenly it was taken away from? Any suggestions for what colour I should try next?

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Stephen Sutton’s story is a tribute to the power of social media

suttonUnless you live under a rock, you will have heard the devastating news that the hugely inspiring Stephen Sutton passed away in his sleep yesterday. I still can’t believe the cruelty of a world where someone as pure and good as Stephen could be taken so harshly from his family, friends and from the rest of the world, but remain happy for him that he had achieved so much and could go having made such a difference to the world around him. Although incredibly impressive, I actually believe the fundraising £3.6million for the Teenage Cancer Trust is the lesser part of what he did for our society. Of course that money will save lives and will go towards creating a legacy in his name, but isn’t it so much more important that through the power of social media he managed to inspired a nation?

So many people were touched by his story, a quick scroll down Facebook or Twitter will see countless messages saying how amazing he was and what a loss it is to society. Importantly, not just those in full health were touched and inspired by him, Stephen also became an icon, a shining example, for those who are suffering from cancer, whether terminal or those in treatment. He showed them that cancer is not the end and that there is so much they can do from a hospital bed with the power of positive thinking. Having known a lot of cancer sufferers in my time, both those who have died and those who have survived, I can tell you that positive thinking really can make all the difference to those going through this. I write countless stories about those with cancer who refuse to let it get them down, who throw themselves into fundraising and who often beat the disease. Not saying these are related, but it certainly gives the patient a new focus and drive rather than just worrying about being ill.suttAfter the No Make-Up Selfie craze flooded Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds just weeks ago thanks to a teenage mum from Stoke, we have seen yet another incredible use of social media thanks to Stephen Sutton. The teenager used Facebook and Twitter to spread word of his bucket list and to eventually raise £3.6million, which has been referred to as a credit to humanity. I can’t help but agree. In a world where Facebook and Twitter seem to be mainly used as ways of showing off, putting people down, or worse, trolling others, it is refreshing to see social media used to do good and unite a nation. The whole point of social media was to bring people closer together but with all the news reports on disgusting uses of the sites cropping up in recent years, it seems that more often than not they are being used negatively. Finally, we are seeing a new craze of using social media to help others and to make a difference.

The amazing thing about social media is that it is so easy, whereas before if you wanted to help charities you had to organise events, donate money or volunteer, now you are contributing just by sharing photos and messages. By sharing links to fundraising pages, you are already raising awareness and spreading the word. Online donation pages also make it so much easier to help, to donate to individual causes, challenges and to the larger charities. I’m just fascinated by how the No Make-Up Selfie spread like wildfire and the message of Stephen’s death is yet another incredible example – the Facebook announcement was shared more than 120,000 times within an hour of its publication.

Perhaps now more than ever it is important to take a good long look at the way we use social media and to make a concerted effort to be more responsible and to use it in the right way. I’d love to see a world where those using it to be nasty, to be perverted or to put others in danger just didn’t exist, but sadly I think where there is the technology there will always be these individuals. What I can hope for, is that the majority of people will continue to, or will start, using social media to really make a difference by raising huge amounts for charity by spreading these campaigns after being inspired by the work of Stephen Sutton. A far better use of our time than paying any attention to the Neknomination craze!

Click here if you would like to donate to Stephen’s campaign for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Drowning in a tea cup

Photo by Max Charping

Photo by Max Charping

Life got just a bit out of control recently. A lot has been happening, too much to deal with really so my response was to stop blogging, because quite simply, I didn’t know how on earth to put it all into words. It’s very rare for me to be speechless, or for anything to put my life on hold, but the shock of everything really did just stop me in my tracks. The shock hasn’t completely worn off yet and things are far from settled, but I’ve missed blogging and I didn’t want all my hard work in creating this little world to go to waste, so here I am.

I’m sure all of us have felt overwhelmed by life at times, I know that I have, I just try not to let it take over and start making plans to deal with things. I’m an organiser, someone who deals with a situation and moves on quickly by finding a solution. It’s just the way I am programmed. So it’s been hard the last two weeks to have my emotions up the wall and feel so scattered – I’ve been getting annoyed at myself for moping around. But when those feelings engulf you, it is very hard to see a way out. I know you all know what I am talking about – if you have ever experienced any real pain or suffering in your life, whether you’ve been bullied, lost a loved one or been through a bad break-up. All of these are devastating and turn our lives from the steady and calm waters to stormy tidal waves that rock the boat we once thought was so safe.

It is so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives, with work and relationships, and to let them seem like greater problems than they actually are. We are all guilty of letting a bad situation take over at times, some react by letting it plunge them into depression and others throw themselves into work and other matters to take their minds off it. Normally I am the latter, I throw myself into anything else in order to deal with the problem and move on, but this time things just caught me by surprise and I started to feel like I was drowning in a tea cup.

You might be thinking at this point “what a depressing post, get over it love”, and I am, trust me. But what really helped me was a heavy dose of perspective. It is important, when you start to feel like this, to take a step back from the situation, which can be the most difficult thing. But taking a deep breath and taking everything into account can really make a difference to the way you view things. My perspective came in the form of a terminally ill man who I had written stories about over the past year after he was given a shock diagnosis of a brain tumour and only 18 months to live. He died at the weekend, but only after squeezing every tiny bit of beauty and fun out of life. Writing his tribute was the hardest thing after seeing him so full of beans only a matter of months ago, but it helped to know that I was doing my bit to help the family to come to terms with things.

Something else that has helped me get a grip on things was hearing, from someone I highly respect and have learnt a lot from, that I am an example that he uses of “someone who will go very far”. We had a chat that led to him telling me this and giving me some interesting career advice that has certainly influenced some of the big decisions I’ve been making lately. It was great to be told from someone who is such an expert in their field and has so much experience that he agrees with my plans for the future and encourages them. Definitely gave me the boost I needed to firm up these plans and to make the first move.

I just want to highlight the importance of saying things like this to people we work with, people we have relationships with, our friends and families and anyone we come across in life. It really can make all the difference to share a positive and constructive opinion on peoples’ work and careers. When we put so much time and effort into things, it is important to reward this with praise and encouragement because it could give them the push they really need to make their next move. Don’t be loose with false praise because that benefits no-one and only hurts you in the long run when you have to explain people’s failings as a result of these words. But kind words and support when you can see the hard work that has gone in, that can mean a lot to us twenty-something’s and graduates who are working our way up the career ladder.

If you ever feel like the walls are closing in and you’re taking on water at the same time, like it’s all just getting a bit too much for you – try taking a step back. Speak to people, my friends have been a saviour to me the last two weeks and I don’t know what I would have done without them. Talking about it all also helps get a grip on the situation and to work out your next move. Don’t just go into a black hole of despair and suffer alone – I nearly did and it made things even worse. What are friends for at the end of the day?

Photo by Jill Justus

Photo by Jill Justus

Have you been in a difficult situation lately – what did you do to find a solution and reach the other side?